España over Christmas for two weeks of adventuring. We spent December 15-30th exploring new parts of Spain we’ve yet to have been before. After spending a month in Barcelona and Valencia last February we hoped to visit parts of Spain we’ve been wanting to see but hadn’t. I found super cheap flights to Madrid from Charlotte, NC and built a loose plan for our trip and let chunks of time for unplanned adventures.
We arrived at the airport in Charlotte, checked our bags and got through security just in time for our flight to get cancelled. After some rearranging and phone calls we were on our way to Miami for an unplanned quick layover before making our way to Madrid. We got into Madrid in the morning, picked up our rental car and headed north for Segovia.
Segovia, while north of Madrid and the rest of our trip was southern bound was a city I had been reading about and simply didn’t want to miss. It was only about an hour and a half drive from the Madrid airport. We took the scenic route through the mountains on the M-607 passing through Parque Regional de la Cuenca Alta del Manzanares. As we reached the mountain pass it starting snowing and the scenery quickly turned magical.
Once we reached Segovia I had booked at hotel in the center of town, this turned out to be tricker than expected with a car. The tiny narrow cobblestone streets wound us narrowly around alleyways and turns until we reached our hotel in the heart of old town Segovia. After recovering for a bit we wondered our way through town and had our first meal of tapas and wino for the win.
Segovia is home to the Roman aqueduct probably built in A.D. 50. The aqueduct is an impressive two tiered arched structure and had been kept functioning throughout the centuries and is preserved in excellent condition. Segovia is also well known for the 11th century Alcázar and the 16th-century Gothic cathedral. Segovia’s neighborhoods, streets, and houses are laid out in accordance with a social structure. Moors, Christians, and Jews coexisted for a long period of time in the medieval city and worked together during the 16th century manufacturing boom. Segovia holds the highest concentration of Romanesque churches in all of Europe and pedestrian-only streets, all bordered by a medieval wall and two rivers. In 1985, Segovia was declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It is a great city to visit and worth the short drive from Madrid to explore.
We spent the afternoon, evening and next morning exploring Segovia’s castle, aqueduct and old town. The city was decorated for Christmas and was lit alive in the evening highlighting the charms of the architecture. One of my favorite parts of the city were the gardens and path below the Alcázar along the river. The walk provided beautiful view of the Alcázar through the woods and along the river. We only had a short stay in Segovia but were really glad to have made the quick trip northward to visit.
The second afternoon we left Segovia and headed south towards Toledo. Along the way we took a short detour to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 50 kilometers from Madrid. San Lorenzo de El Escorial, is home to the monastery of El Escorial a Spanish Renaissance monument and a UNESCO World heritage site. We had lunch in town walked around the outside of the El Escorial, before heading to Toledo.
We checked in our wonderful hotel on the outside of town in Toledo. I don’t normally mention the hotels we stay in but I enjoyed this one so much I thought I’d mention it. We have a balcony and lovely view, which could even be enjoyed from the bathtub at the AC hotel Ciudad de Toledo.
Toledo is an ancient city and another UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is rich with medieval walls, winding pedestrian streets, culture and historical landmarks. The city is rich with Christian, Jewish and Muslim churches, convents, palaces, fortresses, mosques and synagogues. There is a lively pulse to the city and is a wonderful city to visit. I enjoyed the location of our hotel just up the hill from the old city which allowed us the view from above. We spent the evening exploring the streets, sites, sounds and cuisine of Toledo. The next morning I went for a great run further up the hill to the Mirador Del Valle for fine views of the city.
We only spent one evening in Toledo but there is much to do and more time should be taken in this fine city. The next afternoon we drove further south into La Mancha and through the Don Quixote route. We stopped in Consuegra for lunch and to view the windmills that were so highlighted in Don Quixote. We reached the town in the midst of the Madrid soccer match and found what felt like every resident of the town packed into the few small bodegas scattered throughout town. After struggling for a while to find lunch we finally found a little place where I enjoyed the local dish of Pisto. Pisto is made of tomatoes, onions, eggplant, green and red peppers and olive olive oil and is accompanied with fried egg or bread, similar to ratatouille.
After lunch we walked around the windmills and enjoyed the solitude afforded to us visiting on a cold December day. We walked from windmill to windmill and took in the views of the town below. The windmills date from the 16th century and stand in a line along the Cerro Calderico ridge; there is also Medieval castle next to the windmills. The windmills are in several towns throughout La Mancha but the 12 in Consuegra are easily accessible from the highway and fascinatingly beautiful.
After Consuegra we headed further south… to be continued….
“Just then they came in sight of thirty or forty windmills that rise from that plain. And no sooner did Don Quixote see them that he said to his squire, “Fortune is guiding our affairs better than we ourselves could have wished. Do you see over yonder, friend Sancho, thirty or forty hulking giants? I intend to do battle with them and slay them. With their spoils we shall begin to be rich for this is a righteous war and the removal of so foul a brood from off the face of the earth is a service God will bless.”
“What giants?” asked Sancho Panza.
“Those you see over there,” replied his master, “with their long arms. Some of them have arms well nigh two leagues in length.”
“Take care, sir,” cried Sancho. “Those over there are not giants but windmills. Those things that seem to be their arms are sails which, when they are whirled around by the wind, turn the millstone.” – Don Quixote